Military and Police

Hurricane Florence Rescuers Save Animals Left Behind

As Hurricane Florence pushed towards the Carolinas and eventually drowned the landscape with her inescapable tidal deluge, animals left behind were an additional responsibility for first responders and search-and-rescue operatives. Animal lover or casual observer of pets and livestock, leaving any animal to fend for itself against the powerful forces of Mother Nature relegates those who abandon them in a category all their own. Choose your thoughts/words; Lord knows I have mine, and they are not pleasant.

Facebook’s Sharon Hunt, who posted this article’s cover photo, said it succinctly: “They wouldn’t leave you don’t leave them. If you have to evacuate so do they. Rescuers worked diligently to save these animals that should have never been left behind.” Indeed despicable behavior. Ms. Hunt posted pictures of donkeys, horses, dogs and cats found treading filthy waters mucked by Hurricane Florence.

Without having to search much, Hurricane Florence’s climatology graphics, search/rescue ops, and first responder reports were abundant on social media. Included in the varied reports were gut-wrenching images of allegedly abandoned animals either leashed to fences or cruelly tethered to poles as waters rose. I hate the notion that some humans somehow finding desperate times serious enough to warrant desperate measures resulted in “chaining dogs to grounds as water levels climbed,” willingly anchoring the dogs to drown.

I can tell you that many first responders are animal-loving professionals. I can only imagine the disgust upon the faces of police, fire, and military personnel who have courageously responded to the Carolinas…only to discover their mission entailed plucking man’s best friend and other incredible creatures from harm’s way. A totally avoidable aspect turned into a colossal gut-punch.

Frankly, it has less to do with being an animal lover and everything to do with being a decent human being. A childhood friend of mine (a retired NYC cop) chronicled his son Matt’s expedition. Matt works for an animal shelter in the area which Hurricane Florence’s impact was destined, Myrtle Beach. Florence’s floodwaters were clearly relentless, so the game-plan was to board every animal and dodge inland. Matt and cohorts packed several vehicles with animal shelter inhabitants, food, water, and basic necessities before driving far from the coast…to other animal shelters which graciously opened their digs.

Search and rescue personnel navigating the floodwaters deposited by Hurricane Florence found abandoned animals clinging to life, lending pause to the “man’s best friend” adage. (Credit: Facebook/Sharon Hunt)

As Florence pounded, search and rescue personnel came upon some animals barely surviving and with near-depleted energy to just bob in the water. I bet plucking these creatures from the dirty, littered waters was a hugely fulfilling mission for rescuers. Scavenging is an innate trait among dogs, cats and other animals. Surviving is not necessarily out of the realm of possibility, but it doesn’t have to be that way when otherwise available resources can circumvent such cruel atrocities.

Some dogs are chipped and/or have government-required licenses/charms linked to their collars. With such data, law enforcement has the opportunity to establish rightful owners of abandoned dogs and conduct investigations leading to animal neglect/cruelty charges. For those animals lacking any such “ownership” identifiers, the public and private animal control systems and centers are surely overwhelmed. Thus failed responsibilities of animal owners burden an already strained system of resources and personnel.

Abandoned dog found itself stranded upon a submerged car after Hurricane Florence dumped unspeakable amounts of rainwaterin the Carolinas. Dogs scavenge for food among remnants of debris floating in filthy floodwaters. (Credit: Facebook/Sharon Hunt)

Dogs in particular are great swimmers. We admire their loyalty. We always seem to say the “unconditional love” statement around pets, because it is empirically applicable. Certainly, not all hurricane evacuees are of the uncaring sort.

As a cop I’ve worked several hurricanes in Florida. I always knew local, county and state governments allocated evac plans for citizens’ animals and provided resources (transports, animal care and shelter). When push came to shove, my agency facilitated transports and safe boarding for animals, some winding up at police HQ’s modest kennels maintained by cops and civilian police personnel. It was a patchwork, but those beloved critters were provided welfare, sustenance, and a ton of loving…all in buildings deemed hurricane-safe.

In the days and weeks to come, rest assured we shall hear of altruistic individuals who salvaged animals and became best friends with four-legged organisms. Conversely, we will likely be made aware of the definitive death toll among humans and animals. I guarantee some bonds were made between first responders and rescued animals.

Oddly, some residents who evacuated will be commended for doing so while they are also criminally charged for discounting the value of their dogs, cats, horses, pigs, cows, or donkeys…looking like the ass when it’s all cut and dry. Family is family. No one gets to treat animals as if they are mere trivialities.

Not only will the piper come for payment after the hurricane, the piper started taking notes before Florence seeped upon the Carolinas. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina police were notified by someone regarding “a call about potential animal cruelty” whereby cops “discovered three abandoned dogs at a house where a family had evacuated before Hurricane Florence hit,” according to Pet Rescue Report, a blog covering animal news. Penny Eims wrote, “The dogs found at the residence were not left with any provisions — they appeared to have been simply abandoned. The dogs in the chain link kennel were not left with food or water. The [police and animal control] authorities were able to determine that the family who evacuated did not plan to return to their home until Sunday.”

That last nugget informs us that someone in the vicinity —or wherever the family fled— having enough rapport with the animal abandonment suspects is likely the person who contacted police thus saving these canines a bevy of additional horrors. That information also tells us that today, a Sunday, as I write this, handcuffs (or at least tentatively-considered charging documents) are available somewhere in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Those three rescued dogs were remanded to a county animal services facility per order of the Myrtle Beach police conducting a criminal investigation.

WMBF News also reported the story, verifying that the Myrtle Beach police have an active investigation and that the dogs are in “holding” pending contact and interview with the animals’ owners. Myrtle Beach PD added that one police officer found one of the three dogs alone and free-roaming in a trailer on the property. We all know the trailer versus hurricane force survivability rate. How shameful to have created such a winless situation for that particular canine.

This is but one example of what we are discussing: the reality of depravity when humans are confronted with anomalies for which they had adequate prep-time yet still made grotesque decisions. Disregarding a bicycle is perfectly understood; valuating a few heartbeats as dispensable is unfathomable.

Renee Jeanine Ragno had this to say about the matter: “Their choice, actions deserve death via the same manner. Anything less is not having a backbone. At the minimum, ensure they’re criminally charged; fined til it hurts with monies going towards their [animals’] care; never allowed another animal and no financial assistance should there be damage due to the hurricane. They’re on their own.” The irony of those last four words. Eye for an eye. Tail for a tail?

The reciprocity we see more and more of when hurricanes hit our nation is astounding and uplifting during times when the human spirit is taunted. Electric companies traverse states to set-up and restore power. Police from as far as Canada travel to hardest-hit areas. Fire personnel conduct search-and-rescue ops. Our Armed Forces’ members boot-up and get to work amid the twists and knots created by Mother Nature’s fury. Animal rescue operations, often underfunded and meagerly staffed, get whatever resources they can find and put their hands/hearts in the mix.

(Credit: Facebook/Sharon Hunt)

Animal control officers employed by all governments work tirelessly to salvage and safeguard all animals left behind by human counterparts. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa, a small, private operation, navigated to the Carolinas, rescue boat in tow, to pitch in with animal rescue efforts. These volunteers seek to alleviate the abandonment caused by humans who failed their pets.

The help is there. Resources are usually available. As a policeman I came across many individuals too panick-stricken to employ critical analyses culminating in an appropriate decision. Some people require extra guidance. No casualties need be suffered. Co-reliance is a component among the human species. That same co-reliance exist between  folks and their animals; Florence need not be a wedge.

Upon the Wounded Paw Project website I found the following wisdom written by an unknown author: “In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who couldn’t care more.”


The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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